Best Digital Signage Widgets for Different Users

EPISODE 66 | Guest: Ellyce Kelly, professional services consultant for Visix

Choosing the best digital signage widgets starts with good user management. Different software users need access to the tools they feel most comfortable with, but they don’t necessarily need to see everything. Deciding what they should and shouldn’t interact with all stems from having a solid plan for your user hierarchy, content and workflows. This podcast can help get you started.

In this episode, we go through the main user types who create, schedule and manage content, and which widgets are best for them.

  • Learn why and how to organize user profiles
  • Explore three user personas – content submitter, content manager and content designer
  • Hear about different widgets and how they’re used in screen layouts
  • Discover interactive and HTML5 features
  • Understand how to set up software users for success

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Find out more about widgets on our webpage at: Easy Digital Signage Widgets


Derek DeWitt:  Technological innovations aren’t made just for their own sake. The main reason to have them is to make your life easier. When you’re creating content, and scheduling and designing the whole implementation of something as complicated as a digital signage layout, you’ll want to use the most up-to-date tools to make workflows smoother, and to make the whole process just faster and more efficient.

I’m talking about widgets, and to talk with me about widgets today, I have Ellyce Kelly, professional services consultant for Visix. Hi Ellyce.

Ellyce Kelly: Hello Derek. How are you? Excellent.

Derek DeWitt:  It’s been ages. Last time we spoke was in September.

Ellyce Kelly: Too long. Let’s not let that happen again.

Derek DeWitt:  Indeed. I’d like to thank Ellyce for talking to me today and all of you for listening.

Before we talk about the best digital signage widgets, let’s clarify what we mean by a user. What is a user exactly?

Ellyce Kelly: So, in all software applications, you assign user accounts. Those are just your login credentials. Our software is no different. System administrators set up the user accounts. What makes our software a little different is they can choose what each user can see and do in the software. And our controls are very granular. You can limit them to only using templates, or you can give them rights to design, manage, approve, or even schedule content. So it’s very detailed.

Derek DeWitt:  I mean, why would I want that? What’s the advantage of that? Why not let everybody have access to everything?

Ellyce Kelly: So, there are a couple of reasons. For one thing, it streamlines the user experience. So, if you have someone who just needs to post happy birthday messages each month, there’s no reason to complicate things or confuse them by opening up the entire system to all of the workflows that they’d need to navigate. So just let them use the templates, get the simple messages out, and then they don’t have to mess with anything else.

Derek DeWitt:  If I only do ABC and D, I don’t need to see EFG and H. Like, for example, they keep adding features and little things to Microsoft Word. I never use most of those things, and yet, they’re there and they just kind of distract me.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes, exactly. Another reason this control. So hopefully you have a plan in place. Maybe you even have a calendar for your communications. So you need the person or the people who manage that to be in control of the overall system. Those folks will approve and schedule content versus letting everyone just throw up a message whenever they want.

Derek DeWitt:  Oh, okay.

Ellyce Kelly: And of course, there’s basic caution and security. You don’t want everyone being able to delete a playlist or unassign a player, delete a player. You know, that could be pure pandemonium. So, if you have a deployment with 50 to a hundred, 200 screens. You need to keep that system secure.

Derek DeWitt:  Yeah. Because we’re not necessarily saying someone’s going to do something evil, but people make mistakes. And then, oh, those playlists are all gone.

Ellyce Kelly: Ah, so we have a brilliant development team and they have already thought of this. So, we’ve been doing digital signage software for over 20 years. So they went back, and they looked at how our clients use the product to determine different types of users. And we call those personas. So they built workflows to match personas.

First, let me say that if clients are interested, these are all listed in our online help for AxisTV Manage, so they can see them there if they don’t want to go through the transcript for this podcast. There are some other system personas there, but for this conversation, I’m going to stick to three content personas.

The first is a content submitter. So, this is probably the most common type of user. Put simply, this is someone who contributes content. They don’t manage the system and they don’t design within the software.

So, this person wants to get in and out of the software as quickly as possible. They just want to import a file, fill in text in a template, schedule it to a playlist, and then they’re done. They don’t decide where the playlist shows up. You know, what the layout of the screen looks like. They just feed content to playlist.

They could be a subject matter expert like HR, marketing or internal communications, or they could be a complete novice when it comes to this stuff. Someone who just follows a checklist of instructions without seeing the big picture,

Derek DeWitt:  They’re just feeding the content beast, basically. All right, who’s next?

Ellyce Kelly: So, the person who sees the big picture. So, this is the content manager. This person manages the content for an organization or a sub-organization. So in our software you can have an organization with as many sub-organizations as you want. For example, the organization is the university, and then they can have each school be a sub-organization and even have each of the schools’ departments as sub-organizations.

Derek DeWitt:  Within that sub-organization. So they’re like sub-sub-organizations.

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly, yes. And there’s no limit as to how many of those you can add. So, you could have a content manager for the admissions office, under the school of business, under the university. And you might have content managers for each department or school. Or if it’s a small business, you might just have one content manager overseeing the whole thing.

Derek DeWitt:  Oh, okay. So, it’s a way to organize your software like a… kind of like an org chart.

Ellyce Kelly: That’s a great way to put it. It’s not required. It’s just there if people want to have multiple managers.

Derek DeWitt:  So, what does a content manager do? The content creator just creates content and says here, good luck. So what’s the content manager do?

Ellyce Kelly: They’re more about the schedules. So what’s going to play where and when and for how long. So they’ll be more aware of campaigns and have an overhead view of everything that the content submitters are putting into the system.

Derek DeWitt:  So, the managers don’t create content, or they do?

Ellyce Kelly: They might, but as a manager, they’re probably approving things that other people have scheduled or adjusting those schedules. So, since they see everything that’s going to play, they might decide to daypart some of the items. (You know, showing them only on certain days or certain times of the day.) They might clean up transitions so you don’t have each message using a different transition, which can be a little distracting. Or they might have to… Right?

Derek DeWitt:  You see this, some people go crazy with transitions when they’re doing PowerPoint presentations. You’re like, oh my God, did you use the whole library? What are you doing, man?

Ellyce Kelly: Yes, exactly. And if you have multiple zones of content, that’s going to be even worse. They all have different transitions and they’re all just moving, moving, moving. But they also might have to ask for changes to a message before they approve it. So that’s just another role of the manager.

Derek DeWitt:  So these are the folks who manage, like, files and playlist and artwork and other elements and all that stuff.

Ellyce Kelly: Not necessarily. System admins tend to take care of that, but they might ask content managers to help keep playlists clean since they know the content so well.

Derek DeWitt:  Yeah. And I think we know people don’t really clean out their old content, which they should.

Ellyce Kelly: Don’t get me started on that, Derek.

Derek DeWitt:  Okay. So, that’s two. What’s the last content persona?

Ellyce Kelly: This is the fun one – the content designer. They design all of the layouts and the templates. They create the screen layouts, the messages and the templates with a cohesive look, usually using your corporate branding. Usually, they’re a graphic designer or a digital designer. And they might also create artwork assets that they import into the software so others can use them.

It’s really no different than the person who creates your company’s PowerPoint template that everyone else uses. They have a design eye. They make sure it all looks good, hopefully.

Derek DeWitt:  Hopefully. So, which widgets do each of these types of people use? What are the best digital signage widgets for each user?

Ellyce Kelly: Most of our widgets are going to be used by content designers. And that’s because the widgets are in our desktop design app, it’s called AxisTV Design. And they drag and drop them to build layouts, messages and templates.

Derek DeWitt:  So, I mean, how many widgets are we talking about here?

Ellyce Kelly: I think it’s almost 40 in AxisTV Signage Suite, and we get new ones all the time.

Derek DeWitt:  Okay. So what do they do, for example?

Ellyce Kelly: As I said, designers put these together and build layouts and messages. So these are general widgets, like text and shapes with lots of formatting options. You can show webpages, streams, pull in RSS feeds. You can split the text for a ticker.

Derek DeWitt:  So, I can type in my own text and then have any text I want be a ticker.

Ellyce Kelly: Oh yes, absolutely. We teach that in our message design training, as a matter of fact. So obviously you can show weather and date and time. Those are what we call attractors. And you can show countdowns to an event like a college football game or count ups, like days without injury.

We’ve got data widgets that pull from things like calendars or Excel, XML and JSON. So your screens are constantly showing the most up-to-date information and it updates all on its own. So, it’s one and done, sort of how I refer to that. You can map data to specific artwork files. So, for example, you can show a thermometer filling up as the data about donations changes. So that’s a very popular one.

We also have widgets for people to build their own interactive layouts. I just did this with a client this week, as a matter of fact. They can create multiple slides and put in buttons for touchscreens. (We call these hotspots.) Or they can use our voice recognizer widget, which is extremely popular and gaining popularity by the day. You don’t even have to have a touchscreen. So you can literally turn any display into an interactive display. So it lets people use our voice user interface to navigate between slides. So you literally just talk to the screen.

Derek DeWitt:  That’s future stuff right there.

Ellyce Kelly: Super cool.

Derek DeWitt:  And all this stuff goes into layouts and messages. I mean, do you kind of stick some of this stuff into the templates also that people use?

Ellyce Kelly: Some of it will. You’ll probably use background art or shapes for a template design. And maybe you’ll add text fields and maybe images for people to fill in. The designer decides which items are locked and which can be changed by the template user. And they can design them right in our CMS if they don’t want to bother with our desktop application.

Derek DeWitt:  So, it sounds like, if we’re talking about best digital signage widgets for different users, it’s really mainly the content designers is who we’re talking about.

Ellyce Kelly: But keep in mind a lot of our competitors call media types “widgets”. And so, when it comes to media types, content submitters can interact with a lot of those. They can import images and videos, PowerPoints and PDFs. (Please don’t import PDFs or PowerPoint.)

Derek DeWitt:  They just don’t look good folks. Unless the PDF was designed to be displayed on the digital signs.

Ellyce Kelly: Okay. Yes, that’s true. Yes. But one of the coolest widgets that can help content submitters is our media directory widget. I get very excited about this widget Derek. And that is because the content designer puts the widget into a layout, and it just points to a folder on a share drive on the network. In fact, it can point to multiple folders on a share drive on the network. So, content submitters, they’re just putting their content, their messages, just their stuff in that folder. They never have to touch our software ever.

Derek DeWitt:  Ah, that’s pretty cool. You know, I do freelance writing and one of the companies I work with, we do that basically using Google Drive. They create a folder that’s shared, and then I just drag my images and the document I’m working on and all that into that folder. And then, we both have access to it.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes, it’s so easy. Drag and drop.

Derek DeWitt:  Drag and drop. What about, I mean, surely there are some widgets for, say, content managers?

Ellyce Kelly: Again, this is a terminology thing. We only call things in our designer widgets. Other vendors call everything widgets.

Derek DeWitt:  Right. Because it’s the new buzzword. Just like app was the new buzzword not that long ago, right? Everything’s an app now.

Ellyce Kelly: Some of our competitors call every media type an app.

Derek DeWitt:  Yeah.

Ellyce Kelly: Content managers are usually going to work in the CMS, the content management system, and not the designer. So, while they don’t use our quote widgets a lot, they’ll be using tools like daypart scheduling and drag and drop playlist management.

They also can use our HTML5 playlist publisher. So this lets them take any playlist and convert it into an HTML5 so that it can be embedded on a website or on their intranet, in Microsoft teams. So, places that are good to reach remote employees.

And anyone can use our quick scheduler in the CMS to import something or fill in a template and schedule it in about two minutes or less. So that’s good for all users.

Derek DeWitt:  So, to sum it all up, if I may, the content manager deals really mainly with scheduling tools. Content submitters, create content, quick messages from templates, various elements, PowerPoint, what have you. And then the content designers are really the ones who are using the bulk of the widgets.

Ellyce Kelly: That’s right. But it’s really all about knowing your users and figuring out which works best for them. So, if someone’s good with PowerPoint, then let them do that. If someone likes putting things into a media directory, then let them do that.

We recently had a client who was getting lost in the software. So, we figured out that most of their people could accomplish what they needed just by filling in templates. And it saved them a ton of headaches and training. It made for a better user experience all around, which helps them with adoption and makes their signage more successful in the long run.

Derek DeWitt:  Right. So, it’s not just about which users use which widgets. Boy, that’s hard to say. It’s really more about deciding which widgets and which workflows are best for which users. So, it’s about sort of tailoring all these options to the right people.

Ellyce Kelly: That is absolutely correct. But I will say this, anyone can be a widget master.

Derek DeWitt:  I’m a widget master. I want to get a t-shirt that says that. That’s very nice.

Ellyce Kelly: I already have one.

Derek DeWitt:  All right. So, that’s a little information on best digital signage widgets, especially with the AxisTV Signage Suite platform. Why not mention it? It is our podcast after all. But other platforms out there have widgets as well, I should think. Just be careful because one person’s widget is another person’s media type.

I’d like to thank Ellyce Kelly for talking to me today. She is a professional services consultant for Visix. Thanks for talking to me today, Ellyce. Let’s not wait so long to chat again.

Ellyce Kelly: That sounds like a great plan. Thank you so much, Derek.

Derek DeWitt:  Thank you and thank you everybody out there for listening.